I’m A Success Story

May 15, 2020
I’m A Success Story by Les Bender

I’m an ordinary looking middle-aged guy with a sad tale to tell that I’m not going to bother you with right now. I’m completely unremarkable at first glance, but people who know me at all well frequently say that I have a unique outlook on life. I’ve been accused of being wise, insightful, intelligent, well-spoken and once half-jokingly, that I have magical powers!

Now, take another look at the title, and all the sentences in the first paragraph. You are probably thinking something along the lines of “Uhhh… This guy can get to the point any time now”. It’s full of misdirection, ‘leading statements’, and incomplete descriptions. They’re all true, but they don’t say much about who I really am. I’m someone who has, in recent years, devoted himself to his mental and emotional health. I mean, entirely. Nothing else matters very much to me. You might ask yourself, “doesn’t this guy have a family, a job, any interests or hobbies? Does he really just focus on himself? What a selfish person! If he’s so interested in his mental and emotional health he should rejoin the human race for cryin’ out loud!”.

Well, as it happens, I have a family I love with all my heart. Only a small few of the people in it are related to me in any traditional way. Almost all of them are people I’ve built relationships with along the way to regaining my mental and emotional health, but almost all of the ‘family’ you are thinking of are gone out of my life, and they won’t be back. They abandoned me, not because they are bad people, but because I committed the unpardonable sin of being a man, and being just a little too flawed, and a little too vulnerable. In my time getting better, I’ve met many men who, when they were unwell, were mean, selfish, cruel and sometimes even vicious, but once they got well, all was forgiven and their families were restored to them.

I’ll tip you off a little here about me. I know these men because I meet and hear about them in group recovery communities. Some of my maladies of mind, emotion, and spirit are the same as theirs. Some are not. In general terms, group recovery for the addiction I suffered from requires one part of my family, group recovery from the trauma I sought relief from in alcohol requires another.

I was not mean, selfish, cruel or vicious. But I was… For lack of a better word, pathetic. Or maybe disgusting. In any event, the people in my life before I got well had had enough of me. They all got fed up. Not mad, maybe not even hurt in some cases, but just sick of my brand of self-destructiveness. They told me, one way or another, that they just couldn’t watch me tear myself down, and take them with anymore. They either left or threw me out of their lives. I can’t blame them.

But I really am a success story. Just ask my new family.

Now, several paragraphs in, I’ll tell you what I really want to talk about.

For the purposes of this post, I’m an advocate for men and boys mental and emotional health. The reason I do this is that there’s a real need for it. And because the mental health support profession has begun to recognize that need. And because some in that profession have begun to see how utterly the profession, and it’s source of data, research and treatment support in the Social Sciences, have failed in that task.

It’s ok, though. I’m here to help. It’s what I do.

I started this article with a confusing, disjointed, and obfuscated description of who I am. After hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars invested in my mental and emotional well-being, that was all I had. A confused, disjointed, and unclear picture of myself with which I was expected to go forth and be a productive member of society. Did the clinicians and therapists who worked with me not care? No, I think they cared a great deal. Were they just inexperienced with a case like mine? Possibly some, but most were veterans in their field and well recognized by their peers. Did they fail to treat my disorders effectively? Yep. Did they perhaps contribute to making my condition worse? That argument can be made, but I’ll leave it for another post.

My point here is, right now the mental health community is at a crossroads regarding the state of men and boys in the West. There is some conflict in that community regarding the best way to approach our issues. But one side of this argument is beginning to let its ‘mask’ slip. They are making it clear that the way forward for men and boys is to shed their toxic ‘traditional masculinity’, and focus on ways to become more emotionally open and aware, more conscious of their propensity to dominate a space or other people (especially women and girls) and to see themselves as a potential threat to others. After processing all that in an effort to heal, we can move forward as foot soldiers in the war for social justice. Social justice for all. Except us. We just pay the check when it comes. And be grateful that we’re still part of society. After all, who needs us? In short, we need to learn our place and sacrifice our own needs and interests because those are just toxic anyway.

If you think the above is hyperbole, go read the APA’s guidelines for treating the mental health issues we males face. Go and research the ‘Duluth Model’ treatment model for domestic violence intervention. If you read them carefully, and actually follow up the citations in the APA Guidelines, you’ll see what I mean. Many in that field who are fortunate enough to be practicing therapy independently of any institution, NGO, or government influenced entity, have reported that they are disappointed and dismayed by the contents of these guidelines and the caliber of support they’ve been getting from institutions like the APA, the Social Sciences, and even the law. They are beginning to recognize that they are being used to support an agenda that has little to do with anyone’s mental health, and more to do with remaking males into… Well, what, exactly? Answers to that question are usually pretty vague, and seem to point to some flaw in maleness that can and should be removed from us so we can be whole human beings.

Really. Looking back at my previous attempts at addressing my mental health, I get the distinct impression that I was seen as some kind of defective construct that could simply be remade by following a checklist and participating well in class. Like an 8th grader.

Now I want to point out here that some of my journey is not an example to emulate. I want to see some changes in how the mental and emotional well-being of men and boys is being addressed. Because right now it is killing too many of us.

I could go on for hours about how the confluence of abject failure, unbearable emotional pain, the appearance in my life of the right people at the low point in my life and some things about me that are just innately well suited to getting better got me here. I really don’t have space or time for all that, so let’s just say I got really lucky. I found a very few, very independent-minded supporters who have made it possible for me to be a success by my own standards. They’ve helped make me strong enough so that I can stay out of trouble from now on if I stay the course. And they did it particularly in spite of the ‘given wisdom’ from the Ivory Towers mentioned above. NOT because of it. That’s nice for me.

But what about that other guy? Or that little boy? The one who, right now while you’re reading this, is going through is going through his own pain, alienation, fear and doubt. He has no voice or language to tell you about it. He’s likely to see an attempt to support and hear him as a threat or a put-down. Why, because that’s what he gets. Threats, hostility, rejection and criticism. Will he be lucky, like I was? Will he crash and burn and end up alone with no family, friends, job, home, status or desire to keep going only then to suddenly find himself surrounded by people who not only care, but actually know how to help him? What are the odds? I’ll finish by saying anyone believing that that man and that boy deserve anything less than the same kind of support I’ve gotten in the last 5 of my 59 years should feel a profound sense of shame right now…

If you’ve made it this far and want to know how to help make that happen, take a look at the links below, and leave a comment of support for those fellas. And maybe see what you can do for them. Or not. But if not, remember that African Proverb:

“The son who is not accepted by the village, will burn it down to feel it’s warmth”

Men and boys are very good at becoming very violent and very unfeeling when they have nothing to lose.

If you want to know more about my success, my new family and how they’ve helped me, check out the links below and get in touch!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NCFMoC/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NCFMoC

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpU9k7Ka8Si2jWAiKYjiObQ

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